An atheist group is planning to distribute a pamphlet in several Florida public high schools that depicts an illustration of a cartoon Bible sexually assaulting a young woman.
According to a report by Brittany Hughes at CNSNews.com, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) plans to hand out a pamphlet entitled “An X-Rated Book: Sex and Obscenity in the Bible,” with a front cover that is illustrated with an animated Bible with arms, legs, salacious facial expression, and salivating mouth, with its hand aggressively extended up the dress of a screaming woman, who is attempting to run away from it.
On its website, FFRF states that its free speech lawsuit filed last year against the Orange County School District was dismissed by Judge Kendall Sharp of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, since the school district had agreed to allow FFRF to distribute all the literature it had initially prohibited. FFRF says it filed a free speech suit after the school district allowed an evangelical Christian group to distribute Bibles.
“This is a victory. The court has acknowledged that the school district is allowing all the materials that were initially prohibited,” said Dan Barker, FFRF co-president. “We disagree with how the court and the school district chose to handle this clear-cut discrimination, so we’re planning to appeal on some issues, but overall, it’s a win.”
In its motion to dismiss the case, the U.S. District Court did agree, however, with a previous Florida court ruling relating to materials outside groups may distribute in public schools.
“Indeed, Defendant may lawfully prohibit outside groups from distributing materials that are not appropriate for distribution in a school setting with the aim of controlling student conduct in the schools,” said the court. “This includes dissemination of content that is sexually explicit, indecent, lewd, or offensive in [sic] such would ‘undermine the school’s basic educational mission.’”
Breitbart News contacted the Media Relations department of the Orange County Public Schools to determine whether the pamphlet FFRF plans to distribute is, in fact, in keeping with the school’s basic mission.
Information that Shari Bobinski, a media specialist with the school district, emailed to Breitbart News included a copy of a memo that John C. Palmerini, associate general counsel, sent to Orange County High School principals, the school board, the superintendent, and other officials.
The memo, dated April 22, 2013, and referencing “passive distribution of atheist materials,” provided the following list of “approved materials” that FFRF and Central Florida Freethought Community (CFFC), FFRF’s local chapter, may “passively distribute” on May 2, 2013, in schools:
1. The Age of Reason
2. What They Said About Religion
3. Ten Common Myths About Atheists
4. What is Wrong with the Ten Commandments?
5. What is an Atheist?
6. Nontheistic Students in Your School
7. Humanist of the Year Award
The memo also stated, “NO OTHER MATERIALS MAY BE DISTRIBUTED.”
High school principals are instructed in the memo, “You must have a member of your staff ensure that only the materials identified above are on the tables to be passively distributed.”
“This action is being permitted because the District is attempting to avoid a lawsuit from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the central Florida Freethought Community,” the memo continued. “Those groups have sought to passively distribute materials because World Changers of Florida, Inc. passively distributed Bibles to your students on January 16, 2013.”
“Passive distribution means the approved materials may be placed on one unmanned table for distribution in a location where students normally congregate during non-instructional time,” the memo explained. “The representatives must not speak to students or encourage them to pick up the approved materials. … The representatives should not enter classrooms or other instructional areas.”
According to the information Bobinski provided regarding FFRF, “At this point, there is no indication or word of a request to participate this school year.”
In addition, the information provided to Breitbart News states that the pamphlet depicting the cartoon Bible sexually assaulting the woman “was not distributed as part of the materials” last year.
Bobinski declined to elaborate, stating, “We can’t speak any further on the issue because we are still in litigation regarding an appeal.”
CNSNews.com reported that district Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said that “An X-Rated Book,” the pamphlet, “may not be distributed.”
“This brochure will cause substantial disruption and is age inappropriate,” she wrote. “There is a picture on the cover of a Bible book given human features sticking its hand up the dress of a woman.”
Jenkins further said the pamphlet also included information about how to join FFRF, and that the school district could “prohibit the distribution of materials which contain solicitations.”
On its website, FFRF states that its folded brochures, or “nontracts,” which refer to alleged statements in the Bible about abortion, will now be permitted to be distributed, even though the school district described them as presenting God as “hateful, arrogant, sexist, and cruel.”
The atheist organization says it will also distribute Robert Price’s Jesus Is Dead.
According to FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel, “Satanists can distribute their literature, Muslims can distribute the Quran, and atheists can distribute books that criticize religion,” as a result of the case’s dismissal.
Seidel also told CNSNews.com that the pamphlet featuring the sexual assault of a woman by a cartoon Bible is “pretty tame compared to the Bible itself.”
“I think if you look at the content of that brochure and what is actually in the Bible, and some of the things that are in the Bible in terms of sex and compare that to the cover [of the pamphlet], the cover is pretty tame compared to anything that is in the Bible,” he asserted. Seidel added, “I think the bottom line is, you can’t consider any of our materials obscene when compared to the Bible.”
The pamphlet’s text reportedly includes Bible verses that the atheist group considers “obscene,” such as Biblical passages that mention sex, nudity, and circumcision.
Seidel said any offense Christians have at the image on the pamphlet’s cover is a fair trade-off for how atheists feel when Bibles are distributed in school.
“I think we recognize that it might upset some people, but the Bible upsets many, many non-believers, especially when it’s being pushed in the public schools,” he continued. “So really, all it’s doing is placing believers and people who are in the majority in the position that we in the minority have been in for a very long time, and are in every time the government espouses one religion over another.”
David Williamson, leader of the CFFC, said, “We intend to give out a lot more literature to educate students about atheism and the importance of keeping religion out of public schools.”
“We are even designing new materials specifically for students and families in Orange County,” Williamson added.
As reported by Breitbart News, Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president, have engaged in many anti-religion campaigns, including one to remove the Star of David symbol from the Ohio statehouse Holocaust memorial in 2013, and an anti-Catholic ad in 2012, published by The New York Times, that accused the Catholic Church of promoting “acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, overpopulation, social evils and deaths.”
Gaylor is the daughter of Anne Nicol Gaylor, author of Abortion Is a Blessing.
Seidel states that the Orange County Public Schools is the first district FFRF has targeted to distribute its materials, but it will not be the last. “We’re focusing on Orange County for the moment, but we will probably be expanding to other school districts that allow this,” he said.